Baltimore, MD - May 13, 2024 - In the realm of Slabodka, ignited by the vision of Rav Nosson Tzvi Finkel, the Alter of Slabodka, we enter the world of gadlus ha’adam, where our greatness and significance are illuminated. Here, we are called to recognize this inherent significance and weave it into the fabric of our actions.

Conversely, in the domain of Novardok, established by Rav Yosef Yoizel Horowitz, the Alter of Novardok, we encounter the world of katnus ha’adam, where our smallness and insignificance are revealed. Within this realm, we are summoned to acknowledge this humility and integrate it into the essence of our being.

With Rav Yechiel Perr, a son of a talmid of Slabodka and a husband of a descendant of the Alter of Novardok, those two worlds converged. 

The result was a world of splendor and magnificence, combined with truth and brutal honesty.

Full confession. I never learned in Yeshiva of Far Rockaway, and my personal interaction with the rosh yeshiva was not the traditional rebbi-talmid relationship.

But there was one phone call that changed my life.

I had written a moving story that took place between Rav Aharon Kotler and a talmid. Rav Perr called me, wishing to know the source of the story, as he didn’t recognize the name of the talmid in the story. I admitted that I did not know the true identity of that individual, so I had chosen a name. 

An uncomfortable silence ensued.

I braced for the well-deserved admonishment. 

It was short. 

“You have good stories. Truth will serve you well.”


Rav Perr recommended that I read the book about his father, Rav Menachem Perr, a rav in South Ozone Park, Queens. Immediately, I purchased a copy. It opened my eyes to a whole new world. 

A world of unmitigated, unapologetic truth. 

A world of no accolades, no bravado, just genuine realness.

There was something so truthful about Rav Menachem Perr; that truth resonated deeply. 

Years passed and life happened. 

As we grow older, we encounter the frailty and fragility of life. 

Shidduchim. Health. Children. Parnossa

Hashgocha introduced me to Faith Over Fear, written by Rav Perr. I saw it in the home of Rav Perr’s talmid, who convinced me to give it a try. He told me that for many, the sefer’s message had been life-altering, helping them to get to know Hashem.  To really know Him.

If anything, the talmid undersold it. 

Madreigas Ha’Adam, a virtual bible of bitachon written by the Alter of Novardok, may come across as overwhelming, seemingly impossible to digest. 

But Rav Perr’s practicality and down-to-earth language in Faith Over Fear, in which he delves into Madreigas Ha’Adam, make the legendary sefer more relatable.  

I couldn’t get enough of it.

In the sefer, he shares a scintillating story. 

Many years ago, during a visit to Toronto, Rav and Rebbetzin Perr met Czeslaw Mordowicz, one of 12 Yidden who had managed to escape from Auschwitz.

Indeed, he had a story to tell.

And what a story it was.

Mr. Mordowicz first showed the couple the archives from Auschwitz, detailing — based on the prisoners’ tattooed numbers — which 12 prisoners escaped. One of those sets of numbers matched the numbers on Mordowicz’s arm.

Then, in order to get him to tell his story, Rav Perr asked him a challenging question, based on a hot-button topic at the time. Do you think the Pope knew that the Germans were killing Jews?During that postwar period, there were those who claimed that the Pope had turned a blind eye to the atrocities of the Holocaust and had done nothing to prevent it.

As Rav Perr expressed it, Mordowicz's answer burned a permanent spotin his mind.

Mordowicz first asked, What does it mean to know?and then he was ready to tell his story.

After escaping Auschwitz, Mordowicz could have just disappeared. But he felt he had a responsibility to return to his hometown in Transylvania, to help in some way. It took him six weeks of hazardous traveling, but he finally made it back to Transylvania. There he met Rav Michael Ber Weissmandl, a tremendous talmid chacham who spearheaded the Vaad Hatzalah efforts to save the Jews. One such effort involved a souls for saleplan, where he paid for the lives of Jews, and had them redirected from Auschwitz.

Rav Weissmandl hoped that by arranging a meeting with a papal representative, he could stop the atrocities, and Mordowicz, an eyewitness to the carnage, would speak on behalf of the Jews.

The meeting took place in a Hungarian monastery swarming with Nazi soldiers. If Mordowicz, who had no papers and even had a number branded on his arm, would be stopped, he risked instant exposure. There was inherent danger in every step they took.

Finally, they arrived at the Vatican officials office. While the priest sat cordially for two hours, listening to Mordowiczs mind-numbing stories of unspeakable slaughter and wholesale bloodshed, he didnt do much more than utter a polite sigh here and there throughout the gruesome narrative.

Mordowicz knew he had to try a different tack, so he went for the jugular. You know, I saw Nazis take Polish officers and nail them to wooden crates and shove them alive into fires.

Suddenly, the priests face turned chalky white.

Mordowicz clearly had the clergymans attention, and he wasn’t stopping now. “I saw nuns and priests wearing garb just like yours being pushed alive into blazing furnaces.

The priest let out a shriek and passed out. When he came to, he babbled incoherently and Rav Weissmandl and Mordowicz, afraid to draw attention to themselves by calling for help, poured water on him to bring him to his senses. After he gathered himself together, they left the monastery.

A few months later, the Pope declared that the deportations must stop, and it is estimated that 200,000 Jews were saved as a result of that announcement.

However, this was 1944, and by then millions had already lost their lives.

It is one thing to know, to possess a peripheral and superficial type of knowledge, which is not internalized.

Yet, to really know Hashem means to be so intimately and consciously aware of His Presence and control that the knowledge itself gives us peace of mind.

It is rare for great people with great ideas to successfully channel those ideas into plain talk and simple terms, where all they express manifests itself into real and tangible action.

But Rav Perr succeeded. 

After finishing the first sefer, I moved onto his next, Mind Over Man

That, too, provided a life-changing perspective. 

One piece in particular stands out, in which Rav Perr recommends reciting three pesukim of bitachon during spare moments and during times of challenge, big and small; the mere recitation of these pesukim enables us to feel Hashem’s love and care, for these pesukim serve as reminders of Who is in charge.

For me, personally, this exercise has been encouraging and comforting, enhancing my bitachon immeasurably.

At the end of the tefillah of U’Va Le’Tzion, we find these three pesukim, which speak of bitachon:

Boruch hagever asher yivtach baShem v’haya Hashem mivtacho — Blessed is the man who trusts in Hashem, then Hashem will be his security.”

Bit’chu vaShem adei ad ki v’Kah Hashem tzur olamim — Trust in Hashem forever, for in G-d, Hashem, is the strength of the worlds.”

V’yivtechu vecha yodei Shemecha ki lo azavta dorshecha Hashem — Those who know Your Name will trust in You, for You have not forsaken those who seek You, Hashem.”

Ever since encountering that passage in Rav Perr’s sefer, I've echoed those invaluable words countless times. Whenever I sense even a hint of unease or apprehension, I softly murmur, “Boruch hagever…” and it has evolved into a cherished saying within our household.

Infused with inspiration, I thought about calling Rav Perr to let him know how much I enjoyed the sefer.

But I wasn’t sure how he would feel. I pushed off the phone call a number of times. Finally, I built up the courage to call and tell him that his seforim were so meaningful and powerful, how they had helped me embrace bitachon.

I will never forget the phone call. After telling him what the seforim meant to me, I shared several stories about bitachon, including one about a family that embraced the illness and death of their child. He was quiet.  

Then he revealed, “Yechiel, there are people on This World who are such baalei bitachon, I’m telling you they’re living on another planet.”

Of course, he was referring to “Planet Bitachon.”

The most beautiful place in the galaxy.

We spoke for about an hour. His words of praise were effusive, and there were things that he told me during our conversation that I had never heard from anyone before.

Finally, I blurted, “Rav Perr, I wish I hadn’t waited so long to call you. If I may, I would like to consider myself your talmid.”

He laughed. He told me there’s no need for permission and cracked a self-deprecating joke regarding those who have called him far worse than the title rebbi.

I thanked Rav Perr for his time, and I’ve thought of him every day since, every time I whisper the cherished words of “Boruch Hagever,” literally every day.

In Shoshanas HaAmakim, a work of Rav Perr that is not as well-known, he recounts inspiring vignettes about many of those he encountered throughout his lifetime. One of those individuals was Reb Yisroel Movshovitz. In Rav Perr’s words, Reb Yisroel was a tzaddik and a talmid chochom, but also a nistar, with “no label on his chest.”

Reb Yisroel spent the last twenty years of his life in the yeshiva. Then, when he was ill, in pain, and in need of acute medical care, he was admitted to the hospital; it appeared that that’s where his days would end.

Bochurim went to clean his room and among his belongings they found a large flat package wrapped in brown paper, containing his wedding picture. The old-fashioned kind: groom sitting, bride standing, in an antique, heavy wooden frame with a thick pane of glass in the front. It must have weighed five pounds. Rav Perr surmised that there was only one way for the picture to have made its way from Vilna, where Reb Yisroel originated, to Brooklyn, where he lived until he moved into the yeshiva.

Via Siberia. 

When Reb Yisroel had been shipped off to Siberia and taken away from his wife, he had been allowed to take with him seven pounds of baggage. That’s it. Nothing more. In Siberia, you need warm clothing and other items that cannot be purchased there.

Even so, Reb Yisroel felt that he had to take along the picture, in its heavy frame. It was too precious to risk losing it. 

Five of the seven pounds. 

That’s what you do when you can’t live without something precious. 

You take it along with you. 

No matter what. 

Still, sometimes, that which is most cherished cannot be held onto forever.

The day after Rav Perr’s levaya, I was schmoozing with my fellow rebbeim in the rebbeim’s room of Talmudical Academy of Baltimore. One rebbi, a talmid of Rav Perr, sat quietly. Noticing his eyes brimming with tears, I asked him if he had seen the hespedim, and he told me he had attended in person. 

His voice barely audible, yet laden with emotion, he related, “As a Kohen, however, I could not be in the building; I was outside in the misty weather. But after the levaya, after the rosh yeshiva left the yeshiva for the final time, as his thousands of shattered talmidim escorted him on his final journey, I walked into the building and slowly made my way to the rosh yeshiva’s office.”

He had been in that office so many times. It was there that he found guidance and love and truth.

But now it was empty. 

A room that was so full of life, of emes, now desolate.

Painfully so.

He stood in his rebbi’s dark and vacant office and wept uncontrollably. 

And now, sitting in the rebbeim’s room one day later, he wept again. 

Kavah neiro shel olam. 

The light of the world has gone dark.

Yehi zichro boruch.